Face of Defense: Airman Saves Police Officer’s Life
By Air Force Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
49th Fighter Wing
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., Feb. 29, 2012 Air Force Staff Sgt. Lionel Garcia, a 49th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter here, saved the life of a San Antonio police officer Feb. 19 while on leave visiting his family.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Lionel Garcia poses for a photo Feb. 23, 2012, at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. While on leave in San Antonio four days earlier, Garcia saved the life of a police officer who was struck by a car. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"We left my son's birthday party and were headed back on the highway to my parent's house, and I happened to witness a police officer get hit by a passing motorist," Garcia said. "The officer landed face-down on the shoulder of the highway, so I immediately pulled to the side of the road and ran over to the officer to render aid."
As he approached the officer, he added, he could see the officer needed immediate medical attention.
"I could hear him gurgling, trying to breathe, but the position he was in was causing his airway to be blocked," Garcia said. Immediately taking charge of the scene, he directed a police officer to keep the victim’s neck immobilized while he and another certified emergency medical technician rolled him over and removed his shirt, utility belt, bulletproof vest and undershirt to perform an initial assessment.
Besides having difficulty breathing, Garcia said, the officer had numerous cuts on his face, wounds on his elbows and knees, an injury to his pelvis and a fractured femur.
Garcia and the other EMT treated the victim for shock by elevating his legs and monitored him until emergency crews arrived. "During that period,” he said, “his breathing and pulse both improved, but he never regained consciousness or made any movement on his own."
The officer is expected to make a full recovery.
"I have followed the story online, and the officer underwent a 10-hour surgery the next evening," Garcia said. "The news reports all said that he will make a full recovery, and that's the most important thing right now."
Garcia credits his actions to the Air Force fire protection training he has received.
"As a firefighter, you're always trained to perform a scene size-up in your mind before you get on scene," he said. "I didn't really have that many thoughts when I saw it happen. I basically just reacted to the situation, and adrenaline took over. I'm trained to do this.” The chance to help and save people is why he became a firefighter, Garcia added.
His squadron commander, Air Force Col. Donald Ohlemacher, praised Garcia for his actions.
"Once again, our Air Force firefighters' heroic actions saved a life," Ohlemacher said. "Sergeant Garcia was in the right place at the right time to take swift action and render first aid to the fallen police officer. He's one of our many great American airmen who apply instinct and training in times of need. I'm very proud of Sergeant Garcia and his superb actions."